Self-driving cars should be welcomed for their substantial safety and mobility gains for the traveling public, especially the elderly and disabled. But the federal government’s failure to modernize auto regulations is already denying consumers safer and superior products, and this problem will only grow larger as automated driving systems near the deployment stage.
Congress has long recognized that federal regulations should be informed by technical standards developed outside the government, as officials generally lack engineering expertise. Bipartisan bills—the Self Drive Act (Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution) passed by the House, and the AV Start (American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies) Act pending in the Senate—both recognize that the federal government should continually update its automated vehicle definitions to reflect the industry’s best available technical knowledge. Specifically, both bills would codify a Society of Automotive Engineers standard defining levels of